Gambling on casino permit

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Cash Plus Development – the new owners of the 800-acre Drax Hall Estate – said on the weekend it would be spearheading the construction of a more than 1,000-room hotel on the property in anticipation of a casino licence.

Carlos Hill, owner of the five-year-old company, told The Gleaner it was inevitable that whoever forms the next government will have to give casino gambling “more than a passing glance,” adding “we are positioning ourselves so as not to get caught napping”.

Hill, whose company has just bought the Hilton Kingston hotel and is rapidly gaining a foothold in the island’s hospitality sector, said the new hotel would be one of the largest in the country, employing scores of workers.

“It has been suggested that if casino gambling were ever to be legalised, only a few licences would be issued,” Hill said. “It would be very difficult to ignore us based on the development we have planned for this first-rate property. If all things are indeed realised, this would make St. Ann the tourism capital of Jamaica.”

Hotel owners and other tourism-related entities have long been clamouring for casino gambling to be legalised. Successive political administrations have, however, remained steadfastly opposed to the idea, leaving many to question whether their refusal was simply an appeasement of the all-powerful clergy.

“I am not one who would want to resurrect this casino debate, but the benefits are hard to ignore,” Hill said. “It is also obvious to anybody who wants to see that casinos are already here; it’s now just a matter of getting them regularised.”

The entrepreneur cited big plans for the sprawling Drax Hall property.

“We have plans which include a championship golf course which we know will attract some of the finest golfers in the world,” he said.

Drax Hall Estate is a developing resort/residential community stretching from Mammee Bay in the east to St. Ann’s Bay in the west. It encompasses parcels on both sides of the St. Ann’s Bay to Ocho Rios main road, with its northern boundary forming a beach and shallow cliff at the shoreline.

The US$100 million (approximately J$7 billion) asset was recently acquired by Cash Plus, prompting Hill to describe the acquisition as “our finest moment yet”.

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